There are approximately 85 million persons living with some form of disability in the Americas and the Caribbean region. If we add to that their caregivers, families and support networks, it is clear that, either directly or indirectly, disability is a factor in the lives of a significant percentage of our population. Due to existing barriers in their environment, people with disabilities tend to live in situations of greater vulnerability than other social groups and are more likely to experience conditions of poverty or extreme poverty.
The magnitude of the emergency generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has far exceeded the response capacity of governments and other service providers. This particularly affects people with disabilities, who face additional barriers due to the way they interact with their surroundings as well as from a lack of or interruption to health services, support networks and other critical services.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted by United Nations member states in 2015 to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.” In this regard, the Sendai Framework stresses the need to incorporate different perspectives based on the principles of inclusion.
Among other things, the Sendai Framework states that:
“Disaster risk reduction requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership. It also requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted. In this context, special attention should be paid to the improvement of organized voluntary work of citizens.” (Paragraph 19d)
“Disaster risk reduction requires a multi-hazard approach and inclusive risk-informed decision-making based on the open exchange and dissemination of disaggregated data, including by sex, age and disability, as well as on easily accessible, up-to-date, comprehensible, science-based, non-sensitive risk information, complemented by traditional knowledge.” (Paragraph 19g)
“Empowering women and persons with disabilities to publicly lead and promote gender, equitable and universally accessible response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches is key. Disasters have demonstrated that the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, which needs to be prepared ahead of a disaster, is a critical opportunity to “Build Back Better”, including through integrating disaster risk reduction into development measures, making nations and communities resilient to disasters.” (Paragraph 32)
In this context, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, ONG Inclusiva and the Latin America and the Caribbean Network for Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Management (LAC DiDRR Network) organized a webinar on Thursday, 23 April that focused on people with disabilities in the face of COVID-19. Reflections surrounding the inclusion and active participation of people with disabilities within all disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction processes were among the issues analysed through this seminar. The results of a survey aimed at gaining a greater understanding of the experience of people with disabilities in the face of COVID-19 that was carried out by ONG Inclusiva were also presented.